Leadership Bytes: A Lesson in Frictionless Adaptation from Cdr Pratap Pawar

Leadership Bytes: A Lesson in Frictionless Adaptation from Cdr Pratap Pawar

The swelling pride in serving our nation is an unmatched honour, and the contribution of our armed forces commands a deep regard and unparalleled respect in the eyes of every civilian.

While we may often attribute the highest standards of discipline to our officers, many studies have shown that they are exceptional in management skills and leadership in a diverse range of responsibilities too. And we have one such exemplary veteran leading our workforce practices and IT at GS Lab — Cdr Pratap Pawar.

Before joining the corporate world, Cdr Pratap had a distinguished career as a Commander in the Indian Navy. He was instrumental in the induction and indigenization of many state-of-the-art weapon systems for the country. His efforts at training greenhorns, and his role as the Navy’s Goodwill Ambassador to foreign countries have been recognized and awarded at the highest levels. Intrigued by one man’s amazing adaptability, distinguished and bold career choices, and seemingly frictionless transformation from armed forces to corporate leadership looks like, we decided to ask Pratap to paint a picture of his adventurous journey so far.

Take a look at excerpts from the conversation:

1. How was your transformation from armed services to the corporate world? What were some of the major challenges you faced?

My transition to the “Civvy Street” was pretty smooth. In fact, my induction into GS Lab started 3-4 months before my actual joining date as the GS Lab Management permitted me to visit office and spend time with my teams and ease into the groove. These informal interactions with the team members and nod of acceptance from the corporate service leaders served well to adjust my bearing and understand the environment.

I experienced the famous GS Lab culture when most of the employees (even kPointers) walked up to me and extended their support during my settling down period. There weren’t any major professional challenges but it took some time to adjust to the flexi-timing and virtual communication. Now they are my life lines!

2. How did you ensure that you were relevant to the needs of the industry and your peers?

Continuous learning has been my best investment in life. I think it is inimical to be knowledge-stagnant in the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world today.
My basic qualification is BE (Ec & Tx). The Navy provided me with ample opportunities to explore armament technologies across the globe during my inspection of weapons.

However, my learning focus shifted from Applied Engineering to Human psychology around 2004 during a leadership course. This eventually opened up the portals of formal education, and I enrolled for an executive MBA in HR. That immersive experience pushed me towards another MBA in HR & IT. Meanwhile the Navy tasked me to set up its first psychometric assessment and recruitment center at Visakhapatnam. A casual discussion regarding these developments with Atul N and Ajit B in 2010 sowed the idea for retirement, and by the time I decided to hang up the whites, I had completed my CCNA, Six Sigma, Software QA and Cyber Laws and was confident that my skillset and experience were at par.

My research on Agile assessment and Human Development techniques was awarded a PhD by UGC last year and I plan to systematize that research to create a gamified model of a development center for our organization. Recently, I have enrolled for my Masters in Hindu Philosophy and Sanskrit scriptures and aspire to rejuvenate some of our traditional and time-tested yet lost management philosophies.

3. What do you consider was a pivotal breakthrough point in your corporate career?

The day I started converting criticism into positive personal goals.

The buck stops at the Support Services, and we have to bear the brunt for most of the things that go sideways. Most of the time, it’s unfair but responding to such criticism and justifying your stand is an endless process with no winners. You still need to do that in exceptional cases but it drains your energy and focus. I started challenging myself to focus on converting the critic into an admirer within a timeframe. It’s an interesting way of self-analysis through gamification and has helped me win many friends within and outside GS Lab.

4. Over the years, your horizon of responsibilities have expanded. How do you balance your personal and professional life?

Health is a top priority and supersedes everything. An early morning kick-off with a game of squash and weekend hikes help a lot. I have been very fortunate to have like-minded friends who enabled me to touch base with Mt. Fuji, Kilimanjaro, Pinatubo, Sunderdhunga and Everest in the last 10 years.

Family and work come next, but they accommodate and make way for each other depending upon the priority. I did struggle at the start and was always short of bandwidth, I was spread too thin. Then, I experimented and fine-tuned accountable delegation and decentralization (even at home). It worked like a charm after the initial hiccups. My leaders responded brilliantly and created their own self-regulating systems. That provided me with the luxury of adding more responsibilities. Ajit P, Comptroller & CAO, GS lab was and continues to be my safety net. My day starts early with a list of eight planned and two unplanned activities for the day. I try and complete them in short bursts of 20 minutes each using Focus apps. That leaves me with enough time for people connect and system formalities.

Mentoring a few HR and Engineering students and professionals over the weekend gives me a glimpse into the thought process of the new generation. Through these communities and groups we run welfare activities providing remote support to tribal and rural belts of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Odisha. Since the entire family is involved in these activities, we have a great fun visiting these locations together and it also serves as a break from the routine.

My ultimate goal is to settle down as a school teacher in those schools. One of my childhood dreams which remains unfulfilled, is to serve society as an advocate in small courts. God willing, that would be my next qualification.

5. What message would you like to give to the current workforce, especially to those who are keen on taking the road less traveled?

Be self-disciplined, think long term and be aware of the consequences in everything you do. Share your success and prosperity around you. The next 30 years belong to India, so make the most of it!

Author

Pratap Pawar|Director – Shared Services at GS Lab

Pratap is the Director – Shared Services at GS Lab, where he leads Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Talent Enrichment, System Administration & IT Applications teams. Pratap’s role is focused on the creation of highly skilled workforce, to meet the growing needs of GS Lab, both in terms of Employee and customer satisfaction. Pratap and his team strive to ensure that employees have a congenial, fair, stress-free and professionally challenging work-life where their career goals and aspirations can be fulfilled effectively. Pratap is also the key custodian of rigorous internal standards and best practices, and also manages change within the organization to drive innovation to GS Lab’s culture and internal processes – all focused on one overarching goal : making GS Lab one of the best places to work.